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Exercising in the morning is best for weight loss, according to one study

A young female works out before a fitness training session at the park.
A young female works out before a fitness training session at the park.

People who exercise regularly do so when it’s convenient. A recent CDC study suggests certain workout times may work better than others.

Of more than 5,300 people involved over 3-years, the best weight loss occurred among those who exercised between 7 and 9 a.m.

The results need more study, but Dr. Travis Frantz, a sports medicine physician at Texas Health H-E-B, told KERA’s Sam Baker the findings make some sense.

We don't understand all of it. There are some different thoughts and hypotheses on that, including perhaps the fact that after having fasted overnight by being asleep, when you wake up in the morning and you're doing that and exercising in a fasting state, that perhaps that may be a little bit more beneficial as opposed to doing it later in the day.

Because I was going to ask you if this is about how your body stores and uses what it gets from food?

It takes a lot of that initial energy and has it initially stored as something called glycogen in our blood. Once that glycogen or even that glucose source is depleted, then your body can commonly transition into burning off more of that fatty supply that's present.

Now ten to noon or five to seven each day wouldn't achieve the same results?

I don't think we could say that with certainty. There's been numerous studies that didn't show a tremendous difference in the evening. So I don't know that we can definitively say that morning is superior. But one of the other things that did hint at was the fact that morning exercise — people who do it tend to be better, have a better adherence to their exercise program, and be more habitual in their exercise pattern when it is set up as a morning routine rather than an afternoon or evening.

So this could be as much about behavior as it is about anything else?

It certainly could be. It certainly could be. And there are studies that have examined that behavior again. And it does and it does suggest that perhaps we are better at sticking to that routine first thing in the morning. And rather than doing it in the afternoon, in the evening.

And I can certainly state even in my own personal experience, that I think that would probably be true as the day goes on and more things come up in our schedules and things change and there's more more for us to tackle that. Oftentimes, the thing that gets pushed to the back burner by the afternoon or evening time is that 30 to 45 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise.

If you are engaging in morning exercises, are there certain exercises that work better than others for weight loss?

Everything in moderation. So I think it's good to have a great balance of both a cardiovascular activity that does kind of elevate that heart rate and get you into, you know, that moderate to vigorous level that's recommended by so many societies.

And in addition, I don't think you can do only that alone. I think it's important to do some sort of a strength training routine, incorporate core exercises, and do that in various forms.

Isn't the best time for exercise the one you will stick to the longest?

I think the big takeaway from this study is that all exercise at any time is beneficial. So whatever you can do, whenever that might be, even if it is in the afternoon or the evening, that is certainly not a negative and it is certainly worth doing and continuing.

And if that's the time that you can be most consistent and make the most progress and that is the routine that works for you, there is certainly nothing wrong with that.

But if you're looking to maybe get a little bit more out of it or if you've plateaued on your results a little bit, or if things are feeling a little a little stale or dated and you need to make a change, then perhaps moving to a morning exercise session might be in your best interest.


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Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.